Today it seems like every successful board game has lots of expansions. Some expansions are just a tool to extract more money from a loyal fan base. Then there are those expansions that add real value. They add new elements or challenges that make a good game even better or take a great game and make it sizzle. The Heart of Africa by Days of Wonder is falls into that sizzling category.
The first thing to remember is that this is not a stand-alone game. It requires you to have either Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe. You'll use the trains and ticket cards from one of those games. Just like the base game you'll be scoring points in 3 different ways. You get points for completed tickets, claiming routes and end game bonuses.
The map is a beautiful early 20th century depiction of the southern half of Africa. Place names are those that were commonly used at that time, so knowing a lot about African geography might actually slow you down. Expect that the first few games will take a little longer, as you learn where cities are located.
Differences from the base game:
The big new element that gets added is terrain. There are 3 different types of terrain cards, each representing 3 different route colors: Desert (Red, Yellow, Orange); Jungle (Green, Purple, Blue); Mountain (Grey, Black, White). When drawing a train card you can choose to take a terrain card instead. When claiming a route, you may simultaneously play terrain cards. A route that is three or fewer trains requires one terrain card, while a route longer than three requires two terrain cards. You are not required to play terrain cards, but if you do you double the value of that route. That's right, double points. And since there is only a handful of long routes, this makes it very competitive. Terrain cards are kept face up in front of you, so everyone knows how many everyone else has. This is important as you must have as least as many cards of the type you want to use as any other player. Terrain cards used to double the route are then discarded.
There is no bonus for longest continuous track, but there is a bonus for most tickets completed.
The map is much more congested than in Ticket to Ride. This along with the double points for terrain make the game more about building routes then about completing tickets. There are almost no double track routes in the middle of the board, so if you don't like cut-throat games I suggest you stick to 3 or fewer players. Compared to Ticket to Ride, a larger share of your total points will come from claiming routes as opposed to completed tickets. I think this makes it more a matter of skill and less about getting lucky with drawing good tickets.
Since some routes will be doubled, by using terrain cards, those of you that like to score the routes at the end of game will have a problem. How do you know which routes were doubled? You can switch to scoring each route as they are claimed or just use a marker such as a bingo chip or penny and place it under any route that is doubled.
Heart of Africa makes a wonderful addition to any game collection that include Ticket to Ride.
If you want check out the rules before you buy click here.
Finding a copy is easy, most places that sell Ticket to Ride will have this as well. Locally here in Durham try:
3400 Westgate Dr.
Durham, NC 27707